In this week’s podcasting news: KQED spends an hour exploring podcasting; Serial brings long-form journalism to podcasting; Adam Carolla discusses the podcast patent troll dismissal.
Podcasting continues to enjoy traction in at least a segment of the popular consciousness this week. On Friday San Francisco public radio station KQED dedicated an hour of its Forum talk show to the medium, with guests Roman Mars of 99% Invisible, Lea Thau of Strangers, and former This American Life producer Alex Blumberg, who recently launched the Startup podcast.
The program pursues a distinctly public radio perspective on the topic, which isn’t surprising given that the guests come from a public radio background. While the show expectedly dedicates some time to introducing podcasting for listeners who are less well acquainted, each guest is given a fair amount of time to explain his or her own trajectory and why they’ve invested themselves in podcasts.
In response to a question from host Judy Campbell about podcasting’s effect on radio, Blumberg explains that the effect will grow over time and will be similar to how on-demand video services like Hulu and Netflix have affected television. While there will continue to be people who turn on the radio for a live, passive listening experience–just as some people turn on the TV to see what’s on–more people are becoming directed in their listening, choosing specific programs to listen to, and also choosing when to listen. Particularly with smartphones, podcasting enables that kind of selective, on-demand listening, which is becoming easier to extend into the car.
One caller turned out to be the host of a podcast-focused program on San Francisco’s other public radio station, KALW. Ashleyanne Krigbaum presents The Spot, which features podcast programs from within the public radio system that don’t quite fit into the regular schedule because of varying lengths or release schedules.
This is the first such podcast-specific program I’ve heard of–especially on public radio–though I’ve often thought it would be a good idea. I’m glad to see someone actually pulling it off.
Serial Brings Long-Form Journalism to Podcasting
This American Life debuted a new podcast-only series called Serial. It’s dedicated to the kind of narrative storytelling that TAL is known for, but with a focus on a single story for the duration of twelve episodes. This first season of the program digs into a 1999 murder of a high school student in Baltimore County, Maryland, and the circumstances surrounding the young man who was convicted of the crime.
This serialized long-form documentary approach is relatively unique in podcasting, particularly if you exclude shows that originated on broadcast first. Although the show has advertising support from Mailchimp, the Nieman Lab reports that the show is primarily dependent upon the parent program and host station WBEZ.
Listening to the first episodes, Serial seems even to break from the This American Life mold by permitting the investigator and narrator Sarah Koenig to express even more of her own subjectivity and experience in uncovering the story. It feels like a sort of long-form narrative journalism that one is more likely to encounter in The New Yorker or Harper’s than on radio or a podcast.
The approach is well suited to podcasting, because the medium is free of the constraints of the broadcast schedule and the restrictions on topic and language rooted in the FCC regulations and audience sensitivities. The reason why we’ve seen few programs of this sort outside of those that originate in broadcast is because investigative journalism is expensive. I certainly hope that a show like Serial can find its footing podcasting, and become sustainable.
Carolla Discusses Patent Troll Dismissal
In August podcaster Adam Carolla settled the suit against him being pursued by the so-called podcast patent troll Personal Audio. The company dropped its suit, without prejudice–meaning Personal Audio could choose to bring suit again–but without any payment from Carolla.
Both partied agreed to remain silent until September 30. Then, on October 1 Carolla dedicated a portion of his daily podcast to the story of this lawsuit. A YouTube user has uploaded and shared a clip of this specific segment.
There are not many revelations to be learned, except that Personal Audio does not come off as terrifically well researched and prepared. Carolla and his team also confirm that their half-million of crowd funding didn’t keep up with the costs of their legal defense, explaining that they settled in part to cap the total outlay at about $675,000, and also because Personal Audio promised not to also go after fellow podcasters like Nerdist and Marc Maron.
They also claim that their strategy of being loud and drawing attention to the case helped push Personal Audio to throw in the towel. Certainly Carolla brought much more attention to the issue than the much bigger companies also being sued by Personal Audio. It’s hard to imagine that wasn’t helpful to his cause.
Here’s the entire segment: